AN assurance has been given that the almost 6500 North Queensland cattle on the first Townsville shipment since the live export ban lifted will face slaughter by stunning only.
Wellards Rural Exports shipped out 6400 steers and heifers on the world’s largest livestock carrier, the Ocean Shearer, early last Friday morning, en route to load 8000 more in Darwin
earlier this week.
North Australian Cattle Company loaded another 10,000 head, to make up the record shipment of about 25,000 head to leave Australian shores. Road Trains Australia operations manager Brooke Hartley said the full shipment surpassed the existing record of 23,372 by about 1000.
Wellards Rural Exports managing director Steve Meerwald gave an assurance that their stock would be sent to accredited Jakarta and Panjang feedlots, destined to be stunned and slaughtered in certified abattoirs.
The company said the traceability systems and animal welfare standards of the feedlots and partner abattoirs had been audited to comply with Australia’s new export regulations.
“We are responsible for the cattle up to the point of slaughter, but we are working with workers throughout the chain to make sure the cattle end up at approved abattoirs,” Mr Meerwald said.
He said all animals would be stunned, and if that was not possible, they would be redirected to a feedlot.
Proper ramping, worker training and a strong traceability system have been just some revised measures in a firmer regulatory process following the monthlong suspension in June.
Mr Meerwald said it was “fantastic” to have the live export market back on track for buyers and sellers.
“We welcome the opportunity to have alternative markets; better competition in the market means better prices and better opportunities.”
But it will take some time to repair the production chain. Wellards hoped to source an extra 1500 Queensland cattle for the Ocean Shearer and split loading more evenly between Townsville and Darwin, but couldn’t gather numbers in time.
It faced problems with finding lighter stock to meet the 350kg restriction, since young cattle meant for export were fattened following the ban.
But Wellards has used this to its advantage, shipping about 13,000 heavier cattle to the Philippines and the Middle East recently. Mr Meerwald said there were opportunities in other Asian countries, and was confident in the future of the live export trade.
Wellards posted a $5 million loss, countered by $100,000 in government compensation, from the trade suspension, which threw an estimated 120,000 cattle destined for live export into limbo.
The dip in cattle prices is also in need of recovery. The Townsville cattle fetched an average of 175c/kg for steers and 150c for heifers, which Wellards said was lower than pre-suspension figures and a reflection of the current supply and demand.
There was a short delay in clearing the vessel in Townsville last week, but the shipment is on schedule loading in Darwin.
It is Wellards’ second live export shipment to Indonesia since July, with hopes to send another one by year’s end.